The trade deadline is fast approaching and the Toronto Raptors are one of the teams mentioned as possible active players on Thursday. President and General Manager, Basketball Operations, Masai Ujiri is known as someone who is always looking to upgrade his roster and other executives around the league will be hoping this is true again.
The key to building a team that will compete every season for a top spot in the Eastern Conference and eventually challenge for the Larry O’Brien trophy is the bring in the right players. By right players that means those who actually want to play and stay in Toronto for longer than the rest of the remaining season.
This is what Ujiri has to discern when discussing any player with any other executive around the league. Names have been thrown around as to whom the Raptors’ brass are interested in. Tim Hardaway Jr. from the Knicks gets mentioned as does Jeff Teague of the Hawks, but one name keeps popping up on every NBA insider trade rumor list is Rajon Rondo.
The Boston Celtics are in full rebuild mode and now a healthy Rondo could bring back the youth and the draft picks they desire. Of course many Raptors’ fans would love to see Rondo running the show at the Air Canada Centre, but does he actually want to play in Toronto? According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, Rondo isn’t too fond of continuing his career north of the border.
Toronto would love to make a deal for Rajon Rondo, but I'm told Rondo would not re-sign a long-term contract in Toronto after next season…
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) February 19, 2014
Rondo has one more year left on his contract which will pay him almost $13 million. Common sense would indicate that if Ujiri brings in Rondo it will be strictly as a rental player until he demands to be traded away. Rental players usually are acquired when a team is one step or one player away from making that next level in the playoffs. The Raptors should end up winning the Atlantic Division and may even get into the second round of the playoffs. There, most likely, they will meet the Miami Heat and Rondo will not be the catalyst that helps the Raptors win that series. So if Rondo is strictly a rental player, why give up anyone on your own roster to bring him in? The current roster is good enough to make a run at the second round. The Celtics are interested in multiple draft picks and probably want Kyle Lowry and others to make a deal happen. Toronto has a much better chance at getting Lowry to stay in Toronto.
Without a guarantee that Rondo will be a happy Raptor and stay in Toronto longer than this season, this trade really doesn’t have a shot at getting done. Ujiri is here for the long haul and losing valuable pieces for someone who might not want to be here isn’t in the best interest of the team.
Does the team want to get better at the trade deadline? Of course! Is it better to keep Lowry’s name out of trade talks? Probably, but if the Raptors trade anyone, the players who come here should want to be in Toronto and be happy to stay if everything works out.
Freelance Writer Shahab Khan covers the Toronto Raptors and the entire NBA. Shahab is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. You can follow his thoughts on twitter @SchoolboyShebe.